Marian theater; break a leg… literally

By J1 Reporter Brooke Herdzina

The term ‘break a leg’ is theather’s famous catchphrase, but what happens when an actor truly breaks a bone? 

The 2022 musical production at Marian, “Beauty and the Beast” was a huge success, selling out every single show. But it wasn’t without many obstacles and bumps in the road along the way. 

But for Isaac Heng this string of triumphs would pass him by during the first performance. 

On opening night of the production, during the last scene of Act two when Gaston fights the Beast, Isaac Heng from Creighton Prep who played Gaston is supposed to fall after the Beast played by Graham App, another Creighton Prep student, lashes out and strikes him.

Heng had done this fall many times before, in practice, during the dress rehearsal and in a matinee for middle schoolers. He was confident and ready to perform when the curtains unfurled on opening night. But this night was different, and he would walk away with a broken bone and modified role. “Until it happened, I didn’t expect it. Everything seemed to be perfectly planned out and I wasn’t worried about being injured at all throughout the whole thing” Heng said. 

Crack!

He felt a sharp pain just as he landed from his fall but continued his move until he was off stage. “As soon as I got offstage, I tried to stand up immediately like I had done in the past, but I fell back down because the pain hit me so sharply” Heng said. 

Though it really did hurt, he didn’t know how severely he was injured because of the adrenaline coursing through his systems from both the scene and the bad fall. He was in a lot of pain, but it was probably just a bad bruise, right?

That night, he refused to go to a hospital to have his arm looked at. His arm hurt but it was probably just sore and would be fine by tomorrow. He didn’t want to confirm that something was actually wrong with his arm. The show was going so well, he didn’t want to do anything to mess it up.

The next morning he drove himself to school like usual but couldn’t deny the pain his chest was in after the fall. While he was sitting in his first period class he quickly realized that something was seriously wrong and the pain was quickly growing.

Heng decided that he needed to go to the emergency room, and quickly. He called his mom and soon they were on their way to Urgent Care. The results the doctor gave were not what he wanted to hear right in the middle of the huge production he was in with the important role he had.

His left collarbone was snapped completely in half. The only good part about this bone break was that he didn’t have to get surgery to fix it. But, he would have to be in a sling for a month… and wouldn’t be completely healed for another two to three months. 

This is not what he wanted to hear, at all! What if this prevented him from performing in the other performances? But he had worked so hard! Studying his lines, over and over until they finally stuck. He had practiced his dance moves and made sure his voice was perfect in each and every song. 

This was going to ruin everything he had worked so hard for! He couldn’t believe he had made a mistake like that, his mind flooded with guilt and disappointment. Why did he have to complicate the production when everyone else was doing such a great job?

 He couldn’t believe he made a dumb mistake by getting too comfortable with the moves during the fight scene and doing the move without the safety precautions he had been taught like rolling and falling in a safe way!

Even with his injury though, he would push on with his role in the musical.”There was nothing that would’ve stopped me from wanting to stay strong and push through to make this production a success” he said. Too many people had worked too hard for him to quit now. 

Very quickly after the news was delivered to his castmates, Heng’s role was modified to work with his injury. Though he was now physically limited, he worked even harder on his vocals and acting during the shows. It was hard to perform with his sling but he made it work and was still proud of his performance after the shows. 

When the news was first heard by Heng’s castmates, there was an outpouring of patience and kindness. The stage managers were not only supportive but extremely helpful, getting him ice packs when he finished his scenes and regularly checking on him. 

“I’m just grateful to my castmates, directors, and stage managers for being so patient, kind, and supportive…” I’m really happy the production was able to continue to be a success despite my injury” Heng said. 

Part of theater is being able to adapt when unexpected situations arise. Heng was able to persevere even though his role had been modified and his performances were now different. The rest of the production was extremely supportive and resilient, making quick changes. The show must go on. 

Creighton Prep Senior Isaac Heng as Gaston during “Beauty and the Beast” on October 26. This was taken one day before he broke his collarbone in Act 2’s fight scene with the Beast.  Photo By J1 Reporter Brooke Herdzina

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